E3 2009: LEGO Battles

If I’m being completely honest here, and I am, I’ll say that LEGO Battles was a game that barely even popped up on my radar before E3. Going into the show I’d only heard of it once before I was assigned a tour of the Warner Bros. booth. I knew it was an RTS title that took place within the LEGO universe… and that’s it.

So I approached the game with basically no excitement whatsoever. Sure, the concept in and of itself is one that had me a little giddy with boyish wonder. It’s a video game that works with the idea of fighting LEGOs with LEGOs, isn’t this something a lot of us used to do as kids? Take that concept and throw it into a pile with touch screen capabilities and RTS mechanics and you’ve got the formula for a winner.

And that’s basically what I got to see at the show for around 20 minutes. LEGO Battles is exactly as advertised, a large foray into the world of LEGO from an RTS perspective. That might be enough to pique the interest of many.

LEGO Battles was developed by Hellbent Games and is being published by Warner Bros. and TT Games.

In the demoed level, players took control of a small group of Knights themed LEGOs as they completed standard, early-goings RTS objectives. You know, build a Castle, build a Farm, build a Barracks, etc. And it’s here that I’d like to hit on my first point. LEGO Battles feels like a classic RTS game. Nothing fancy and nothing too crazy, but if you’ve played and RTS before you’re going to feel warm and welcome as soon as you start this one. These are RTS style point-and-click mechanics at work for the DS. Very straightforward and easy to pick up for anyone even lightly seasoned in the world of real-time strategy; I was working well within 2 minutes.

Players will be working with a multitude of units across six races (more on that later). Each unit has been balanced to work well within each race. I was assured by one of the folks from Hellbent that the units were balanced but different. We aren’t going to get six races of the same units with different sprites. These are all unique and independent.

Players will be able to control a commander type unit for each race as well. This is basically your hero. It will have special abilities and be able to do all sorts of wonderful things for you on the battlefield.

The graphics also look solid enough for a DS title. They’re simple and reminiscent of Warcraft II. That might sound like crap now, but the game runs perfectly well in motion. My only complaint is that the demo level before me showed only green grass and green trees. I would have liked seeing some water, snow or space-themed environments as well. Can’t blame the folks on the show floor for that one, though.

The cut-scenes are damn marvelous, and there are a ton of them. They’re in the style LEGO fans are accustomed to as well. We’re talking nice and polished CGI throughout the whole of the experience. And I was told by folks from the Hellbent team that these cut-scenes were packed with that standard type of LEGO humor.

I’ll end this with some bad and then some good. First is the bad. The multiplayer experience here seems pretty lacking for an RTS title. You’ll only be able to experience multiplayer combat through local, multicartridge play. That means there’s no Nintendo Wi-Fi and each of your friends must have a copy of the game to partake. When I heard this at the show, I think I visibly displayed a sign of disappointment. The folks giving the demo were quick to reassure me that, while only available locally and with multiple copies of the game, the multiplayer in LEGO Battles is something they play all the time. You’ll just need local friends in order to do it.

But then there’s the overwhelming good. This game is going to be gigantic. I was told that this was originally going to be three games, sold separately. Each game was going to feature one storyline shared between two races. The races are split between LEGO Space, LEGO Pirates and LEGO Castle (yes!). Players will get six storylines spread over 90 levels. You’ll be able to build custom armies with 55 characters and 30 vehicles over land, air and sea. Like I said, this is a very big game.

LEGO Battles was released on June 9th.